We don’t use this word often. We usually say “tired.” More often than not when I ask someone how they are doing these days, they will say something along the lines of, “Good. Tired, but good.”
I say that to people a lot too. But as I take a moment to reflect on it, I’m not sure “tired” really does justice to what I’m feeling. Most days, its not just that I could use more sleep, though that would be nice. What I could really use is a recharge of my soul. A button I can press to restore my emotions to equilibrium. Space that is quiet and undistracted in which I can think and be with God.
Recently my Facebook newsfeed has been inundated with memes showing people’s despair and inability to complete tasks that life and the world seemingly require of them. The caption is always the phrase, “I can’t even.” Also popular is the #adulting terminology. Captured in these sentiments is the idea that our younger generations are waking up to the reality of a world that demands more of us than we expected, more than we have to give, and the constant attempt to psych ourselves up enough to participate in the rhythms of that world is exhausting. And so we all find ourselves not just needing more sleep, but needing our souls recharged and our emotions set at peace. We are all longing for space and quiet where we can focus, think, and be with something or someone beyond ourselves who can remind us who we really are.
We are a weary people.
And the good news for us is that the God of the Universe revealed in the pages of the Christian Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ is a God who said once 2,000 years ago and still says today, “Come to me all who are tired and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Jesus is the God of the soul recharge. He is the One who can restore our emotions to equilibrium. He is a God who invites us to sit with Him in quiet, undistracted spaces where we can think, pray, and be with Him as He reminds us who we are.
This week marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Christians across the world today and throughout history have observed Lent as an annual season of repentance. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday, it is a time to prepare our hearts for the primary events of the Christian faith—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the early Church, Lent was a time for new converts to prepare for baptism by learning the theology and practices of their new community. This included a special emphasis on fasting, prayer, repentance, and giving to the poor. For Christians today, Lent is a time to be renewed in the reality of our baptism. It is a time to deny self, take up our cross, and follow Christ in every area of life.
For those of us who grew up in churches that talked about Lent, my guess is that we associate this season with what we DON’T do, what we GIVE UP. While the practice of Lenten fasting is right and good, it is only part of the story. Lent has often been referred to as a period of “bright sadness,” because, as many Christians throughout Church history have experienced, the God-ward practice of small deaths through abstaining and giving up is inextricably bound up with the intentional taking on of new life. Lent is about more than simply what we don’t do, its about the practices that we LIVE INTO with intention, believing that the extraordinary God who often makes dead people come back to life might burst into our ordinary moments of fasting, solitude, silence, and prayer with resurrection life and power.
Rightly practiced, the season of Lent is not an obligation, but a gift for Christians. It is a season where Jesus invites us to reorder our habits, refocus our attention, redirect our lives. It is a season given to us as a soul recharge, an occasion to practice peace in our emotions, an opportunity to enter God’s rest.
We all need Jesus. Lent reminds us of this urgent and often painful reality. But it also brings us right up to the edge of the Gospel as we remember that Jesus has come to us and made the life of God available to us. Lent is therefore an opportunity to make space and be with God.
It is for all of these reasons, that our church, The Mission Cincinnati, will journey through Lent by practicing the disciplines of the faith that many of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the centuries have practiced as means of paying better attention to God’s movement in the world, making space for His presence in our lives, surrendering our wills more completely to His, and entering into His rest.
Over the next 6 weeks, we will preach through and practice the disciplines of Silence, Prayer, Sabbath, Fasting, Solitude, and Pilgrimage. We see these disciplines as resources God has given us to enter into His restful life of communion. Our hope is that our intentional focus on these disciplines in this season will help us all make space to receive more of Christ’s presence, power, and love in our lives, and that as we walk through the desert together with Jesus over the next 40 days, we will find our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies more and more refreshed.